Tuesday, December 19, 2006


Think digitally, act globally

From The Statesman
ND Batra

For most businesses, the best digital strategy is to look for an innovative technology, an idea or a business method that creates something new, a cyber-niche that never existed before, and establish market dominance, as long as possible or until another one appears and makes it obsolete.
But a company doesn’t have to be innovative all the time; instead it could troll the digital world and adopt innovations. This is one of the reasons that US companies are offshoring their businesses abroad because offshoring captures unutilised brainpower.Remember: brainpower has no nationality in the borderless world.

You can pick anyone’s brain anywhere, if you can pay for it. If we network the world’s best brains, the rate of innovation would increase dramatically.But it also means that the rate of obsolescence too would increase, leading to a prolonged state of turbulence. Turbulence could be a source of self-renewal or self-destruction.

File sharing in creative expression, for example, in music recording, has been generating turbulence that has necessitated new business models, such as iTune on iPod and so on.The Internet is challenging old thinking and old methods of doing business. Businesses, however, flourish in a stable environment. Whatever one might say about Microsoft Corp monopoly practices, its operating system, Windows and now Vista, has provided a universal standard and created operational stability.

But sometimes an innovative application could be replaced with a substitute without adverse effects or disruption. For example, Microsoft’s Internet Explorer overtook Netscape browser, Navigator, which had reached a critical mass.In the digital age, technological innovations have a short life span. Google’s innovations might dispatch Microsoft to the dustbin of history one day. China’s software companies might soon eat India’s lunch. In the digital age, Bangalore cannot afford to take a nap.

Bangalore and Microsoft must ceaselessly innovate or perish.

Global digital connectivity and the marketplace are the primary forces breeding today’s innovations. The Internet has transformed the world’s economy from an industrial to a information economy in a span of one generation. Gordon Moore predicted that every 18 months, computing power will double at constant cost and his law has surprisingly held its sway.

The same has been true of the bandwidth, which is becoming faster and cheaper, giving rise to myriad opportunities, for example, electronic trading marketplace, in which split seconds count, as The Wall Street Journal recently reported in a front page story (“Firms Seek Edge Through Speed As Computer Trading Expands”) enabling traders to make millions by the end of the day.Miniaturisation and speed have gone hand in hand with the power of networks, whose value increases dramatically with each additional node.

From automobiles to public buildings, from cardiac pacemakers to battlefields, inexpensive digitisation has begun to penetrate everything. Whatever is digitised could be networked and shared and enhanced. In theory, every human activity can be digitally designed and built with an Internet connection, which would make every entity that is network-connected both as a consumer and a supplier of information. The global supply-chain system of information would become an inexhaustible source of value-added information. Networked databases are capable of profiling potential customers as well as terrorists. Offshoring not only reduces transaction costs but also generates new ideas and applications.

Core and the ring ~ a dynamic and stable core of senior executives and a fluid and flexible ring of contractual employees, such as outsourced contractors or offshored workers ~ is the emerging shape of a modern global business. And from this point of view, a modern global corporation has become a complex system of international relationships, both cultural and diplomatic, with business partners and customers digitally spread.It is not that the brick and stone aspect is no longer important; nonetheless, it is the rule of the digital. That’s the future.Smart global corporations are always trawling for newer applications and knowhow to use them before anyone else does.That’s how they go from incremental to exponential change.

But this is not the first time that a killer application is changing the world fundamentally into a networked world, a world of collaboration.Networking first began when telegraph reached a critical mass in 1843, making possible the rise of the Associated Press, the first network of collaborative information gathering and distribution, which eventually led to US and Western domination on information, the way we see the world and ourselves. But not all killer applications have the same impact on society.

Chinese invented the moveable clay and metal type printing press in 1041 with little social consequences for the Chinese society. But when a German craftsman Johannes Gutenberg re-invented the movable type printing press in 1436-1440 and published the Bible in 1452, he couldn’t have predicted the unintended consequences.In the hands of Martin Luther, printing became a killer application, which he used with devastating effect against the Church and unleashed Protestant Reformation that led to prolonged civil strife in many European nations; and the beginning of Renaissance, and some would say, the age of the European colonisation. Printing and telegraph, from our standards, were slow.

Digitisation transforms whatever it touches at the speed of light.

Here’s an unpardonable, sinful and sinning, digital afterthought: God must be: Binary, Zero-One, She-He, Ying-Yang; not the One and Only One.In the binary world, there’s no clash of civilisations.

No comments:

Post a Comment